Where excessive livestock grazing is permitted in young forests considerable damage may result. Goats, cattle and sheep injure young seedlings by browsing. They eat the tender shoots of the trees. The trampling of sheep, especially on steep hills, damages the very young trees. On mountain sides the trampling of sheep frequently breaks up the forest floor of sponge-like grass and debris and thus aids freshets and floods. In the Alps of France sheep grazing destroyed the mountain forests and, later on, the grass which replaced the woods. Destructive floods resulted. It has cost the French people many millions of dollars to repair the damage done by the sheep.
The Federal Government does its best to keep foreign tree diseases out of the United States. As soon as any serious disease is discovered in foreign countries the Secretary of Agriculture puts in force a quarantine against that country. No seed or tree stock can be imported. Furthermore, all the new species of trees, cuttings or plants introduced to this country are given thorough examination and inspection by government experts at the ports where the products are received from abroad. All diseased trees are fumigated, or if found diseased, destroyed. In this manner the Government protects our country against new diseases which might come to our shores on foreign plants and tree stock.
THE GROWTH OF THE FORESTRY IDEA
Our forests of the New World were so abundant when the early settlers landed on the Atlantic Coast that it was almost impossible to find enough cleared land in one tract to make a 40-acre farm. These thick, dense timberlands extended westward to the prairie country. It was but natural, therefore, that the forest should be considered by these pioneers as an obstacle and viewed as an enemy. Farms and settlements had to be hewed out of the timberlands, and the forests seemed inexhaustible.
Experts say that the original, virgin forests of the United States covered approximately 822,000,000 acres. They are now shrunk to one-sixth of that area. At one time they were the richest forests in the world. Today there are millions of acres which contain neither timber nor young growth. Considerable can be restored if the essential measures are started on a national scale. Such measures would insure an adequate lumber supply for all time to come.
Rules and regulations concerning the cutting of lumber and the misuse of forests were suggested as early as the seventeenth century. Plymouth Colony in 1626 passed an ordinance prohibiting the cutting of timber from the Colony lands without official consent. This is said to be the first conservation law passed in America. William Penn was one of the early champions of the “Woodman, spare that tree” slogan. He ordered his colonists to leave one acre of forest for every five acres of land that were cleared.